Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How it ends?

The "$0.10 buy-in, turbo No Limit Hold’em tournaments" worked like this: 360 players, first place prize $8.50, 2nd place $6.00, 3rd place $4.00, and so on, down to 27th-36th winning $0.20.

And a new tournament began every few minutes.

I was well aware, of course, that I was "supposed" to play for a while, lose my dollar, but then become so enamored with the experience of playing real money online poker that I'd deposit more money. And if I lost that, well, I could only win it back by depositing more, right?

I had no intention of being one of those people though. If I lost my dollar, so be it.

I had mixed results at first, rather like my attempts at the casino. I'd fail to get in the money in a couple times, then I'd win twenty or thirty cents, then lose some more. In tournaments, as opposed to "standard" poker, most of the time you're going to lose your entry fee. Soon my original dollar was down to thirty cents.

I was frustrated. Only three buy-ins left. I took a break for a couple weeks. I re-read my poker books. When I returned, I felt ready.

I entered a tournament, and lost ten cents. Thanks to some bad cards, I never had much of a chance.

I entered another. Lost again.

Only ten cents left. Well, I said to myself, this is it. If I lose, I'm done--it means this just isn't the game for me.

The next tournament did not begin well. Bad cards after bad cards . . . soon I had only half of my original chips left.

But I didn't give up. Patience, I told myself. Eventually some good cards came, I made a couple key bluffs when I was confident another player had nothing, a good break here and there and . . . I finished third.

Third! I had just turned ten cents into four dollars.

The breakthrough had come. A few tournaments later, I finished first. Suddently my PokerStars account had over ten dollars.

Soon I was moving up from the ten-cent buy-in tournaments to the one-dollar buy-ins, and kept winning.

And winning.

In January, when my account rose over $150, I decided to make sure that I could actually, like, get the money. I "cashed out" for half of my winnings, $75, and sure enough a check came in the mail a few days later.


I kept playing. Kept winning.

However, before you start sending all sorts of congratulatory comments my way, you should know that underneath all of this success, there's a problem, and it's a problem that it's taken me a while to be able to admit.

I have been playing way too much online poker.

As in, several hours a day of online poker.

Last Friday I got a call offering me some substitute teaching opportunities a couple weeks hence. I was, at the time, in the middle of a poker tournament, and I continued to play during the course of the conversation. I accepted the offer but hung up the phone thinking, Damnit. This will give me less time for online poker.


A long-dormant voice (perhaps the "Angel" from two posts ago) awoke in my consciousness, saying, "Dude. Can you, like, hear yourself? I mean, seriously."

To which I could only respond, "Yeah, I hear myself. And no, I don't like it either."

Something was wrong.

I got out my Tarot cards and did a reading, trying to figure out what was going on. Of particular note was that the "crossing card," representing my current challenge, was . . . The Devil.


I logged back onto PokerStars and went to their "Responsible Gaming" menu (a feature I must give PokerStars real props for having) and requested a 7-day self-exclusion from playing.

Since that time, I've felt . . . free.

Which brings us to the present. I'm about to do something, which, quite frankly, has been difficult. I'm logging onto PokerStars and clicking on "Cashier."

I have just over $175 at present. Add that to the $75 I've already cashed, and that's $250, all starting with the single dollar I started with three-and-a-half months ago.

It more than makes up for the money I lost at the casino.

Perhaps it's, well . . . enough.

Deep breath.

"Cash out."


Account Status: $0.00.

Goodbye, PokerStars. Hello, world.


  1. This is a pretty amazing story... although I guess if you divided all those hours of online Poker by the amount you made, it would be a pretty meager hourly wage. Unlike, say... tutoring math.

    And on that note, would "The Tutors" for our business name be too obscure a reference for our target audience? Sometimes my penchant for wordplay is problematic.

  2. You read Tarot too? Are you for real, castlerook? What an interesting guy.

    I gotta say that was a mature thing to do, if you were that uncomfortable, even if I did want you to keep playing online poker, win huge, and be in a real tournament on TV so I could watch and impress my poker-playing family (incl. PokerStars, of course) with the fact that I "knew" someone in one of those fancy games.

    Oh well. Guess I'll just have to wait for someone else through whom I can live vicariously. Damn.

  3. Artemis,

    Exactly. Of course, there's also the tempting idea that as one plays and keeps winning, one can then play higher and higher stakes and, if still successful, actually make some "real" money.

    But that's not the life I want for myself. I think perhaps all I was after was the knowledge that I could do it, if I really wanted to.

    "The Tutors" is certainly a pragmatic option.


    Yeah, I'm for real. Hang on, I'll poke myself to make sure.

    Ow. Yep, real.

    Tell you what: I'll make a name for myself through some other venue and you can still impress your friends. Deal?

  4. Oh, I feel you castle! I have done the online poker real money thing - no surprise there, I'm sure, lol! I won $800 in one night. And I lost $200 in one night... more nights than I care to count. Good on you for getting out early!

  5. OK, it's a deal. I'm just saying, don't be so damn selfish next time. Plus I am a horrible poker player; too mathy, so I'm always impressed with the, you know, mathish nature of it. I guess chess would do.